Art x Fashion: Fashion inspired by history’s most stunning gowns

Fashion and art have always worked hand in hand like a hall of mirrors. When one creates something, the other reflects it. For centuries, art and fashion have danced with one another. Creating memorable images in either fabric or paint form. When I chose to venture into art and fashion in the first “Art x Fashion” article, the comparisons made between the artwork’s and the clothing was based on colour, print, pattern, etc. Now, the comparisons are based on some of the most stunning gowns ever painted throughout history.

Ann Demeulemeester x Thomas Hudson

Ann Demeulemeester fw17 by Sebastien Meurnier | “Portrait of Lady Frances Courtenay, wife of William Courtenay, 1st Viscount Courtenay” by Thomas Hudson | Photo: Vogue Runway

Until recently, black was a coloured reserved for mourning, not elegance. So when it came to finding a gown that matched today’s modern obsessions with the shade, a deep dive into the world of classical art was the only way to go about it. Luckily, I stumbled upon Thomas Hudson‘s beautiful painting “Portrait of Lady Frances Courtenay, wife of William Courtenay, 1st Viscount Courtenay” which showcases its main subject wearing a beautiful black gown. The sheen on the black fabric, white ruffled collar, and sleeves was mirrored by a look that walked the runway at Ann Demeulemeester this season, which featured a black dress and white shirt. The two gowns almost look like doorways. One leading to the past, the other, the future.

Loewe x Giovanni Boldini

Loewe fw17 by Jonathan Anderson | “Madame Charles Max” by Giovanni Boldini

Powder blue, not only was it named the colour of the year last year (along with rose quartz) It has steadily filtered its way through everything from fashion, to home decor, and even car colours. What sets this colour apart from other blues on the lighter spectrum is its softness, its cleanliness, its elegance, and it’s ability to remain an extremely dominant colour without looking juvenile. At Loewe, a stunning powder blue gown came down the runway looking like a clown in the wind. Immediately Giovanni Boldini came to mind. The effortless brush strokes of the blue dress in Boldini’s “Madame Charles Max” look as light as air, mirroring the billowing blue gown on the runway.


Calvin Klein x Thomas Cooper Gotch

Calvin Klein fw17 by Raf Simons | The Lady in Gold by Thomas Cooper Gotch

Gold is one of those colours that will always be associated with royalty. It represents the thrown, the sun, wealth, extravagance, and the God-given right to rule a kingdom. In Thomas Coop Gotch‘s painting “The Lady in Gold,” we can see how gold plays a vital role in creating an elegant and domineering atmosphere. Not only is the dress itself a beautiful hue of yellow gold, the entire painting itself is painted in various hues of warm yellow. Giving the woman in the painting a sense of sheer importance and status. At Calvin Klein, A stunning gold coat walked the runway. The gold fabric and cleave PVC overlay looked made the garment look like liquid gold. Twisting and swirling onto itself. Truly a modern take on an old royal favourite.


Gucci x Frans Verhas

Gucci fw17 by Alessandro Michele | “The New Bracelet” by Frans Verhas

Call it lilac, periwinkle, or lavender, or aubergine, but no colour can match the unbridled intensity of purple. Which screams “look at me!” regardless of which hue is being shown. In Frans Verhas The New Bracelet,” a soft lilac jumps out from the canvas against a neutral background. It’s clear that the intention of the painting was o put the gown itself into focus while letting the background fade away. And what a perfect colour to do just that. However, at Gucci, this purple gown was one of the only colours that was featured entirely by itself. The dominant colour creates a mesmerising look that needs little more than a lustre in the fabric itself to stand out. Just like Frans Painting, this Gucci dress captures the eye and lets the background fade away.

Chika Kisada x William Ross

Chika Kisada fw17 by Chika Kisada | “Princess Feodora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg” by William Ross

What do you think of when you think of pink? For me, I see candy, extravagance, sugar, delicateness, and power. Now, most people would agree with candy and delicateness, but why power and extravagance? It’s simple, pink is one of the strongest colours on the colour wheel. It gives off an intensity without ever experiencing any muteness in its hues. Whether it’s baby pink or fuschia, pink lights a fire unlike any other colour on the spectrum. In William Ross‘ “Princess Feodora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg,” we can see that even though the pink chosen for the gown is the softest imaginable, it still draws the eye to it. Dominating everything around it in the painting. This is also the case with this stunning pink dress at Chika Kisada aw17. The mix of bubblegum pink and dusty rose creates levels of excitement and interest in the dress. Pulling your eyes towards the harness on the model’s chest, and drawing it all the way down to the train.

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The old is the new trend

The theory that history tends to repeat itself can’t be denied when it comes to fashion. Think about all the pieces that you used to wear in your youth that are currently having their glory moments again. Appreciated designers and coveted brands have already seen the potential in bringing back successful pieces that have proved themselves in the past. This strategy is also known as retro marketing, and it’s all about taking advantage of nostalgia for the past to make current items more attractive and meaningful to the customer.

For Fall 2o16, it will come as no surprise that observing the new collections will feel like déjà vu. Be prepared to let your youth memories cycle back into your life again. Here’s a list of the old pieces that become new again:

Photo: Denzil McNeelance (1993)

Levi’s Mom jeans

One of the biggest  trends of the season is “mom jeans,” those high waisted denim jean with the back pockets, embodied by the the iconic Levi’s 505These jeans were a huge success during the 80s and early 90s and considered a must-have staple.

As a current fashion staple, “mom jeans” got a fashion forward update. Levi’s released a new collection of vintage inspired jeans, called the Wedgie Jean, which showcase all the assets of the feminine body- waist and hips- and balances between the cool attitude and sex appeal vibe. Levi’s made these jeans from a low-stretch denim, promising to highlight all your best assets.

Photo: Nicole Alyse, ASOS

Gazelle sneakers

Another item that you probably cherished in your childhood was the tri-striped, suede Gazelle which was recently brought back by Adidas. The leading sportswear brand evaluated the potential of the nostalgic style and decided to relaunch the Gazelle heritage sneaker with legendary model and Gazelle-lover, Kate Moss.

The sneakers were originally made in 1963 as professional soccer shoes. Their popularity grew high during the 90s and we surely believe that they will instantly be adopted by all street style lovers and  fashionistas.

Photo: J.Crew, Michael Adams

Dr. Martens

Dr Martens, the iconic grungy shoes with the heavy sole boots and the yellow stitching, are returning back directly from the 90s. Whether they’re seen on the Prada and LouisVuitton runways, or on the streets, Dr. Martens allows you to channel your Seattle neo-grunge spirit. We highly recommended giving them a lady-like twist (think feminine skirt or dresses) so blurring the line between masculinity and femininity will be done perfectly.

Urban Outfitters

 Cavin Klein slip dress

Riding on the 90s wave, another throwback piece is having a fashion revival: the slip dress. Kate Moss in her silver Calvin Klein slip dress will remain forever etched in our memory, so no wonder the silky feminine piece has emerged back into our wardrobe without a blink.

In our modern life, the slip dress lends itself enormously well to the art of layering. You can simply wear it in any way or style. Our suggestion, for the cooler days ahead, is to balance between coziness and femininity by layering it with a t-shirt underneath and a bomber jacket on top, or pairing the silky fabric with a soft oversized cardigan.

Photos: Vogue Italy 1995, Journelles, Calvin-Klein SS16

Tracksuits by Juicy couture

Get ready for a big comeback directly from the 2000s, the tracksuits. The velour athletic set has a serious style statement this season and has already been seen on the catwalks of fashion houses like ChloeBurberry, Gucci and Loewe. The tracksuit originally appeared with Juicy Couture as part of their signature style and it was only a matter of time until the tracksuits made their way back into our lives. Celebrities were caught wearing them off duty back in the 2000s. Britney Spears and Paris Hilton owned one in every colour, while Jennifer Lopez showed up with the bright pink short version in her music video.

You can embrace the sporty look however you choose: with loafers, trainers, ankle boots, or even with strappy heels. Tracksuits also look amazingly stylish with tailored pieces, but keep in mind that  confidence and a cool attitude are fully required here.

Numero Mag, Chloe, Cosmopolitan, Juicy Couture

On Our Radar: Five Designers to Watch

1. Design Duo: Parris Gordon and Chloe Gordon

Beaufille SS16

Up-and-coming Toronto design duo Beaufille was founded by sisters Parris and Chloe Gordon in 2013 as a line of luxury artisanal womenswear and jewelry. The name Beaufille translates to “handsome girl” and symbolizes the contrast between masculine and feminine elements. With that combination of hard and soft, sisters Chloe and Parris seek to challenge the gender norms of todays society. The Gordon sisters are the recipients of the 2015 Canadian Art and Fashion Awards (CAFA), Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent, in the category of Accessories.

 2. Huishan Zhang

Huishan Zhang SS16

Zhang was born and raised in Qingdao, China before moving to London to study at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. He has already worked for the iconic heritage brand The House of Dior, in the leather goods branch as well as Dior’s Haute Couture Atelier.

Huishan finds inspiration and direction through his personal identity embracing a sense of Eastern meets Western attempting to portray romanticism and sophistication with feminine details. In September 2014 Huishan was named by the Business of Fashion as one of 500 individuals that shape the Global Fashion Industry. Huishan Zhang debut at London Fashion Week in September 2012 and has continued to refer to LFW as his home base ever since.

3. Design Duo: Piotrek Panszczyk and Beckett Fogg

Area SS16

This design duo met while studying at Parsons School, pursuing their Master in Fashion Design and Society. Each of them had different backgrounds as Piotrek Panszczyk, Polish-born and raised in Holland, studied fashion at the Artez Institute of the Arts; and Beckett Fogg initially studied Architectural Design at The University of Virginia. On top of their differences, the duo found each other and was able to build a signature based on similar aesthetic vision. Piotrek has worked for names like Chloe and Calvin Klein but in 2013 reconnected with Fogg to create what is now their label, “Area”.

4. Misha Nonoo

Misha Nonoo SS16

The Misha Nonoo brand lives by no other motto than its philosophy of taking women from “day to play”. The idea behind is that women should be able to “embrace their femininity while pursuing their goals” and holds unyielding in Misha’s heart. Having experienced multiple different cultural episodes throughout her life – she was born in Bahrain and raised in London – Misha explains that her upbringing is the reason for her obsession with diversity. “Progressive yet classic silhouettes with smart yet sexy details” is how one describes the creations of Misha Nonoo.

5. Tim Coppens

Tim Coppens SS16

Graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium-born Tim Coppens now is a New Yorkbased designer who seeks to combine the components of craftsmanship, tailoring. and athleticism. Coppens inspiration derives from the energy that resides within the city lifestyle and street culture. That “pulse that feels the present and the future.”

In 2013 the Tim Coppens brand was recognized by Fashion Group International receiving the Rising Star of the Year award. One year later he took home the Council of Fashion Designers of America Swarovski Award for “Menswear Designer of the Year” and earlier this week announced that he will take on the role of Executive Creative Director for sportswear brand Under Armour.

Diversity in Toronto’s Fashion Market: A Model’s Perspective


Written by Ayman Aldin

One aspect of fashion that is always open for discussion is its relationship with society. The two entities coexist and function by challenging, as well as reflecting one another. For example, runway models at Paris Fashion Week are notably taller and thinner than at other fashion weeks because the city’s majority is that way as well; it makes sense. Runway shows, magazine/editorial coverage, and advertising campaigns in West fashion markets i.e. Paris and London predominantly use Caucasian (white) models because their respective populations are largely white, and people are instinctively drawn to what they relate to.

Let’s take this notion and apply it to a pressing issue: the apparent lack of ethnic diversity in Toronto’s fashion market, a city known for its diversity. If fashion is supposed to reflect society, then why is the gap between runway and consumer steadily increasing? In this particular aspect, our fashion market disappoints us.

The lack of diversity in Toronto’s fashion market, not only carries social consequences, but sets notable challenges for working models of colour. Sadiq Desh (Elmer Olsen Models) is a Toronto-based model originally from Nigeria. He believes that working as a black model can either “work to your advantage or your disadvantage”. Clients and casting directors decide which models are right for their particular project and essentially “have their pick” says Desh. If they have previously worked with a model before, they will most likely hire that same model again – a rational practice, but one that involves advantages for some and disadvantages for others. There are “token-black models” says Desh, and that’s where the most prominent advantages lie; a (racially-specific) token model becomes a selected favourite amongst numerous other racially diverse models. In a notoriously competitive profession, it seems that dark-skinned models, as well as other racially diverse models compete against one another in ways lighter-skinned models do not have to.


                                                          Photo by Mark Binks

Nathaniel Luu (Spot6 Management), who comes from a Chinese and Vietnamese ethnic background, finds that he compares himself “to all the other Caucasian models”. He often expects clients to choose them; “I’m just there in case they need a more diverse group” he says. Luu’s comments suggest that non-Caucasian (non-white) models are predominantly used as accessories to compliment the overall image of a project, and less as forefront necessities. The lack of racial diversity in fashion is not a new discussion: “everyone’s aware, but nobody’s talking about it” says Sadiq, and he’s right. There should be no fear in having conversation; if discussion cannot be done publicly, then there must be something inherently wrong within the industry.

Photo Credit: Juan Neira

Back in 2013, Naomi Campbell and Iman (who are part of fashion’s diversity coalition) took an unprecedented step in publicly acknowledging the lack of racial diversity on the New York runway shows that year. Fashion’s diversity coalition, led by fashion-activist Bethann Hardison, penned four letters to organizations like the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) that addressed the lack of racial diversity on the runways and called out several high-profile designers i.e. Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Marc Jacobs who contributed to it.

Since then, things have shifted. Preceding runway presentations at New York Fashion Week have increased the number of non-Caucasian models, but only slightly. This past August, Details magazine released their fashion fall issue; its cover, photographed by Mark Seliger, showcased 31 of the current top male models sporting looks from the Calvin Klein Fall/Winter 2015 collection. Amongst the 31 men, only four models of colour were present.

Moreover, Valentino’s Summer/Spring 2016 collection presented at Paris Fashion Week earlier this fall used motifs inspired by images and representations of “African” culture. Despite strikingly beautiful and diverse designs, the most striking aspect of the presentation was the designer’s dominant use of white models. The collection showcased a total of 90 different looks, but only 10 of them were worn by dark-skinned female models.

Photo Credit: Dominique Charrian

Still, to say no change has occurred is deniable. Swedish retail-clothing company H&M recently partnered with Paris designer Balmain for a fashion collaboration to be released later this month. The campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti, features high-profile models Jourdan Dunn, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Dudley O’Shaughnessy, and Hao Yun Xiang – a racially diverse group of models by any standard.

“I think that now, many international companies within and outside of fashion are really trying to make a huge effort in diversity within their campaigns and brands” says Myles Sexton (B&M Models). The Toronto-based model has been modeling for nearly 7 years. “When I started modeling, I did more womenswear than menswear”, which was “before the time of ‘androgynous’ models or gender fluidity” Sexton explains. “I think it was generally hard for myself at castings, trying to book work and make others understand what I represented” he says. Models like Kirsten Owen and Andreja Pejic (represented by PUSH management) have helped pave the way for gender-ambiguous fashion, and with androgynous models like Seth Atwell (managed by Peggi Lepage) on the rise, the increasing amount of androgyny will only continue to diversify fashion.

Photo Credit: Ivan Otis

Speaking about his earlier years of work, Sexton remembers walking “into a casting and [having] the room go silent; there would always be this awkward pause before someone would speak and realize that I was a man and not a woman”. This made Sexton feel “uncomfortable”, but for him, “you can’t create change if you feel comfortable.” Myles makes a crucial distinction regarding real change. Although change is difficult, his comments insinuate that challenging boundaries and pushing past them is the only way to implement any kind of positive change towards diversity.

Photo Credit: Ivan Otis

This past season at World MasterCard Fashion Week (WMCFW) saw some designers cast a variety of different models. Most notably, Hayley Elsaesser who returned this season with a strikingly colourful collection of womens/menswear presented by a very diverse selection of models.

Photo Credit: Che Rosales

I wanted to know how many non-white models were used throughout WMCFW, and more specifically, if that number changed among the different runway shows. Keeping track of each individual model was difficult, especially when some were recycled within a show and used again for another. Instead, I decided to keep track of how many looks were presented and kept a tally of looks worn by white and non-white models. Below are my findings. The last column denotes the percentage of looks worn by non-white models against the total number of looks in that particular show.

Designers/Runway Presentations Caucasian worn “Looks” Non-Caucasian worn “Looks” Total # of Looks
3.PARADIS 18 6 6/24 (25%)
BUSTLE 28 10 10/38 (26%)
FINEZZA 15 4 4/19 (21%)
HAYLEY ELSAESSER 9 8 8/22 (36%)
HILARY MACMILLAN 22 2 2/24 (8%)
HONG KIYOUNG 20 4 4/24 (17%)
JACQUELINE PIRON 23 8 8/31 (26%)
KOLLAR CLOTHING 20 6 6/26 (23%)
LUCIAN MATIS 28 3 3/31 (10%)
MACKAGE 28 6 6/34 (18%)
MATTHEW GALLAGHER 9 2 2/16 (12%)
MIKAEL D 25 9 9/34 (26%)
MIKHAEL KALE 16 2 2/18 (11%)
NARCES 22 10 10/32 (31%)
NO99 WAYNE GRETZKY 22 12 12/34 (35%)
PINK TARTAN 26 7 7/33 (21%)
PRELOVED 41 2 2/43 (5%)
RACHEL SIN 27 2 2/29 (7%)
RUDSAK 18 7 7/25 (28%)
SID NEIGUM 19 6 6/25 (24%)
STEPHEN CARAS 30 5 5/35 (14%)
TATSUAKI 20 17 17/37 (46%)

Calculations reveal that 36% of the runway presentations had less than 15% looks worn by non-Caucasian models and that 86% of them had less than 30% looks worn by non-Caucasian models. There is a dramatically unequal rapport between white and non-white models on the runway. Moreover, amongst a total of 23 runway shows only 3 of them used non-Caucasian models to either open or close a show; not one presentation saw the use of non-white models do both, that is, open and close the same show. The two tables below involve the same type of tallies for the RED Emerging Designer Showcase and Mercedes-Benz Start Up runway presentation. The numbers here seem better, but only because no collection exceeded 8 looks.

Red Emerging Designer Showcase Caucasianworn “Looks” Non-Caucasianworn “Looks” Total # of Looks
JING.Z 3 2 2/5 (40%)
FEYANKI LAW 3 2 2/5 (40%)
RUBY RSAI 5 0 0/5 (0%)
JI AXIN XU 3 2 2/5 (40%)
DOREEN TO 4 1 1/5 (20%)
BLUE COLLAR TRIBE 2 3 3/5 (60%)
VANDAL 5 0 0/5 (0%)


Mercedes-BenzStart Up Caucasian worn “Looks” Non-Caucasian worn “Looks” Total # of Looks
UNTTLD 6 2 2/8 (25%)
BEAUFILLE 6 2 2/8 (25%)
S.P. BADU 4 4 4/8 (50%)
LEINAD BEAUDET 4 2 2/6 (33%)
LAURA SIEGEL 6 2 2/8 (25%)
NARCES 6 2 2/8 (25%)
Photo Credit: Che Rosales

The predominant use of white models over models of colour is problematic – especially in Toronto, Canada’s largest city distinguished for its ethnic and multicultural diversity. The choices made to use white models perpetuates a very specific type of beauty as an ideal; more importantly, it places social value on that ideal. The perpetuation of such an ideal establishes a social hierarchy based solely on phenotype. The lack of racially diverse models being used within and outside of fashion socially segregates individuals based on their skin colour and/or their ethnic features – and this has tremendously negative consequences; what does it say to people who fit that ideal and to those that do not? Naomi Campbell said it best: “it doesn’t matter what colour you are. If you’ve got the right talent, you should be up there having the opportunity to do the job.”